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According to White House sources, the Biden administration is aiming to lure some of Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s, top innovators by waiving some US visa requirements for highly educated Russians looking to come to America. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the plan is to ‘weaken Putin’s high-tech resources in the near term’.
One of the potential changes to US visa rules, recently submitted as a supplemental request to Congress by the White House, is to scrap the rule requiring Russian professionals applying for an employment-based US visa to have a current employer.
It’s understood that relaxed US visa rules would apply to Russian nationals who have a master’s or doctoral degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, gained either in the US or overseas.
Make US immigration easier for highly educated Russians
Under the plans, the Biden administration wants to make it easier for ‘top-tier Russians’ in particular to enter the US, specifically those with experience working with semiconductors, space technology, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, advanced computing, nuclear engineering, artificial intelligence, missile propulsion technologies and other specialized scientific areas.
According to Biden administration officials, a significant number of high-skilled technology workers are leaving Russia because of limited financial opportunities amid US sanctions imposed on Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The lifting of restrictions on US visas for highly-educated Russians will last four years, according to a Bloomberg report. However, there will be no changes to the US immigration vetting process, visa fees other rules outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Russian professionals leaving homeland
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, hundreds of thousands of Russian professionals began leaving their homeland.
On March 7, economist at the University of Chicago, Konstantin Sonin posted on Twitter that more than 200,000 people had fled Russia in the first 10 days of the conflict, claiming that it was a ‘tragic exodus the likes of which had not been seen for a century’.
According to an Interfax report, which cited an estimate from the Russian Association for Electronic Communications, between 70,000 and 100,000 information technology specialists were looking to emigrate from Russia in April.
In recent weeks the US, along with seven of its allies, have discussed giving protected immigration status to Russian scientists – including those working at CERN (the European Council for Nuclear Research).
Home to the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, CERN suspended most of its work with Russia shortly after the country invaded Ukraine.
Russians and Belarussians hit with US visa sanctions
Meanwhile, the US Department of State (DoS) recently imposed US visa sanctions on hundreds of Russian and Belarussian nationals in response to human rights abuses in Russia and Belarus.
It’s understood that 587 Russians - including members of the State of Duma, were hit with US visa sanctions pursuant to a policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which targets Russian government officials allegedly involved in suppressing dissent in Russia and abroad.
48 people, pursuant to a policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the INA that targets people who are believed to have taken, supported or been actively complicit in actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, have also been hit with US visa restrictions.
A further 17 people, including officials from state-owned factories and universities, said to be responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 8015, have also been hit with US visa restrictions.
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